“5G will have to come in. Because of the shared way of the infrastructure, Telcos will come together and share the cost making the implementation rollout faster, making the cost of implementation cheaper too.”Umar Ali Shaikh, CEO, Atos in India
The growth in the digital economy amplified by 5G technology had created a demand for domain experts and many of the technology providers had latched onto the opportunity. But the unprecedented event of Covid-19 has certainly brought in a surge in the demand for the technology; and also the demand for the highly skilled work force and super specialists. In our quest to find out and understand the expertise in the digital technology along with 5G solutions capability, we found out some of the niche players and Atos India appeared one of the front runners.
In my recent conversation with CEO, Atos in India, Umar Ali Shaikh convinced me about the capability of this 33 years old technology provider.
Today, Atos is a preferred solution provider for many of the large companies. Umar says, “One of the largest Oil & Gas retail companies, one of the world’s largest Automobile groups and India’s leading FI have taken Atos as their technology partners because of our unique solutions tailored for their needs. Along with this, we have pan India reach. We do not compromise in service delivery quality. On top of it we believe in long term commitments. Along the ways of service delivery journey, we keep on bringing innovations, which amplifies the satisfaction of the customers.”
He added, “Digital adaptation of telecom during pre-Covid days has been one of the highest in Indian industries. According to a report published by McKinsey, it was around 50%. But due to Covid-19, there has been growth in the internet usage and OTT platforms, telecom players had to make themselves ready on a war footing. Also, the ARPU in pre-paid connections have improved owning to the high data usage.”
Atos is servicing all these environments with efficiency. The company either has developed capability or acquired capability by virtue of its acquisitions including Siemens IT during 2010-11 or Xerox services, Bull or even Unify. Although these acquisitions are global in nature but these have bearing on its INR business – means India centric business. As a global Tier-1 service organization, Atos’ capability spans across applications, infra, HPC and UC business. Although UC business is dealt differently through partners.
This OEM agnostic service delivery provider can integrate applications and also develop custom built applications for ERP, CRM or BI kind of solutions. Even they develop bespoke applications required for the customers. Giving an example, Umar add, “If a customer is looking for implementing SAP, we do not only sell the software and integrate it on the customer premise or on cloud but also customise and manage for over few years after it goes live.” Along with this, if the customer wants to upgrade the infra – may be for Hana or S4Hana, they also do that. He maintained, “We can be one stop shop for all the software, hardware and skilled manpower for application management and maintained.”
On the infra side, Atos strength lies in all the kinds of IT infra including laying out solutions for Telco. With 5G revolution happening and 3G – 4G infra converting to 5G, the billing systems are also migrating to a different platform. Atos owns the capability of managing and monitoring 5G billing system from an end-to-end perspective. Umar says, “Our strength also lies in managing and monitoring Data Centre, configuring private, hybrid and public clouds; and migrating the customers for different environments. We can literally lift and shift the customers’ datacentre from one environment to another.” “We also do network management, security management, end-user computing, SOC, NOC, technical service desk, etc. not only from the point of view of setting it up but also manage and monitor the existing set up.”
Towards achieving the perfection and making it error free, Atos tries bringing in innovation by adding automation along with AI and ML.
Atos’ customer base spans across all vertical markets. Today, it offers end-to-end IT services to one of the large German automobile manufacturing companies based out of India – including their assembly line application. Similarly, another luxury automobile manufacturing companies depends on Atos for managing and monitoring their datacentre operations and technical support. India’s largest Oil and Gas retail companies banks upon Atos to manage their automation solution. Atos here has developed this particular automation software for the client which helps them to check the quality and capacity of the fuel and on top of it, manages the dynamic price change of the fuel every day. Atos also offers the retailer analytics of individual fuel stations in more than 200 locations in India. Umar says, “Apart from managing so many locations for them, we are managing the world’s highest elevation fuel station, which is about 3700 to 3800 meters higher than the sea level and the farthest fuels station that the company manages is within the 5 kilometre of Indo – Bangladesh border.
At the same time, Atos also manages the entire Datacentre and network of the largest FI in India. The service delivery company also manages and monitors datacentre of one of the very large payment gateways in India from end-to-end perspective. Umar adds, “If that is not enough, Atos has done ERP implementation of the India’s most prestigious technical institute.”
As Atos is one of the Telco specialist, they manage end-user computing of one of the large Telcos in India. Umar says, “We are holding one of the largest end user computing contracts from them, which can go beyond sixty thousand devices across 200 locations.”
What is your assessment of the market sentiment now?
I think market has gone through a cycle from where we suddenly stopped due to the lockdown, but every industry has bounced back very well.
We cannot generalize the market situation as far as Covid- 19 is concerned. There are certain industries which started doing very well because of this lockdown and there are certain industries which definitely bore the brunt of low sentiment due to the lockdown. But if you asked me, market has gradually improved.
What are your views around the digital transformation and CIOs challenges?
Digital transformation is a reality. We have got early adopters and we have players who adopt with caution. And then we have laggards but can we take away digital transformation from our tomorrow’s journey. The answer is absolute no. Every CIO is aware that they have to embrace digital transformation. Just that, the dynamics and the speed has changed due to the Covid-19 crisis. The challenges that the CIOs are facing is to upgrade from the legacy situation what they had – both in terms of their setup and the adaptability, which they would face within their organization or in the periphery the business they are operating.
Second one is the faith of a CIO on a partner to help them transform to a real digital situation, how smoothly and how fast, it will get executed. That is another challenge which CIOs face because when you sit with a partner and integrator, things can be very positive but when you actually award them or engage them to execute what you are looking forward to in your transformation journey, the things can be very different. So the real challenge is choosing the right partner.
I am certain that almost every organization has got right checks and balances, right evaluation criteria and right experience to decide and appoint the right partner in their digital journey, yet it is not smoothest yet.
The third one in my opinion is the technology and the capacity is changing faster than before. What you planed when starting your transformation journey one year ago, something new come up. In summary, the legacy infrastructure, plus the mind-set, right partner in the journey to ensure smooth and faster execution and of course coping-up with the faster changing technology and capacity. These are the three top challenges.
What are your views on keeping the organizations immune from cyberattacks by creating right architecture?
Cybersecurity was always important and in the challenges around digital transformation, cybersecurity is even faster. CISOs always had a challenging task to cope up with this. But in today’s scenario their work and the sensitivity of their action has gone up multi fold. We are now talking about making work from home as one of the possible alternatives. That would mean that we are letting our people to come into our network or our customers’ network from home. So a new set of challenges that will come up not only at the technical level but also at the level of awareness.
How do you make your people aware that this email is a phishing email? Prevention is better than cure. So that is another challenge which CISOs are facing to make people aware that cyber security is a threat, and it can really jeopardize the way we are working. That realization is as bigger challenge as upgrading our infrastructure, bringing in right software, bringing in right expertise to block the cyber security threat.
The other challenge is, it is very difficult for a CISO to maintain balance between security, business and implementing security control. It does not come cheap. Plus, it comes with lots of checks and balances. It may not help people to work in the smoothest possible way. So bigger task for the CISOs is to maintain a balance between business and implementing controls.
The other thing is, can we fully eliminate cyber security threat. We cannot. So you are only working with best efforts. Meaning they are aware that some attacks may happen, which they are not aware of or which is new. So it is not only prevention or awareness but also damage control. They will have to face damage control and that is a bigger botheration. Because damage control is when damage has happened and you are controlling. The irony is, you do not know what damage is coming. In my opinion, cyber security like digital transformation is also a Number one discussion and Number one thought, in any organizations.
Whether the management is understanding the relevance of cybersecurity?
Of course. It is about being aware that this is damaging and also being aware how damaging it could be. There are two different aspects. We know it is harmful and being aware to what extent it can be harmful. Now the third part is what is the collateral harm that it can incur to your organization. Not only you as an organization, every organization which are connected to your organization can be affected. So I guess the journey has exponentially taken off from the step of knowing cyber security is important to what extent it can be harmful to what collateral damage it can cause.
So, CIOs, CFO, CISOs, EMPLOYEES – both external and internal employees – all have to be made aware about cybersecurity. We at Atos have constantly been doing awareness campaigns. Our security team keeps bombarding all sorts of messages and if you by mistake click on an email that you could not recognize, we get an alert that you did this by mistake, please take the training again.
What is the kind of evolution being seen in the Telcos?
With 4G or 5G, there are multiple beneficiaries. There are enterprise customers and there are end consumers. India plays on a volume game. We are one of the lowest ARPU countries as far as Telco is concerned, yet we have Telcos, who are sustaining the business in India.
Now, if I have to look at the adaptability of technology, what does it need smartphone, better internet connectivity and then people who would be able to click the right icon to go where they want to go.
You build the smartphone and if the person does not know how to operate the smartphone, it has no use or internet connectivity or 4G or 5G has no use. We as a country are very well aligned to all these three from the consumer side. Anyone, who is not very educated understands roman scripts on the screen or understand a few words in English. Plus, smartphones today are also coming with local language options as well. So we do not have the challenge there.
Now 5G is a reality. Pandemic has brought in the adaptability of Indians to use their smartphones or use internet to the fullest extent. The cost of internet has also come down drastically. But there are certain things which still are away from being only in 4G. For example, e-health or augmented reality, we are able to operate in 4G, but are we able to do in a real situation in 4G answer is no. Therefore, you really need 5G to execute those applications efficiently.
There can be robotics, autonomous driving, and so many other things, which are only possible in 5G. So whether to adopt 5G, the answer is definitely yes – at least at the enterprise – level. The other thing, which brings 5G is that there was a time when Telcos used to have their own infrastructure, own base stations, etc. but 5G brings in a scenario where operators can operate on an absolute shared mode – means the cost of infrastructure is shared among them. That will make it a lot more viable for us to get 5G implemented.
So the first point is that, do we really need to 5G? The answer is: we will not be able to stay away from it. Three to five years ago, when OTT platforms including Netflix or Prime video came, it was a luxury. But today it has become so common. I know many people who have discontinued their satellite connections, because they are 100% gone on to OTT.
So likewise, 5G will have to come in. Because of the shared way of the infrastructure, Telcos will come together and share the cost making the implementation rollout faster, making the cost of implementation cheaper too.